‘I can do 26.2!’

This is the sentiment on a post card that I have glued into a scrapbook from my 1st marathon.  Underneath it, I have an article about the history behind the MARATHON DISTANCE.  Wanna hear it??  Ok, here it is (anyway!)

Do you ever wonder why a marathon is 26.2 miles, instead of a nice round number like 20 or 30 miles?  For the answer, you need to flash back to ancient Greece in roughly 500 B.C.

Legend has it that Pheidippides, a soldier, ran with news of a battle from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens, which was just under 25 miles away.  He finished the distance, got out the word niki (“victory”), collapsed, and died.  (That’s gotta make you feel good about your decision to run a marathon, huh?)

At the first games of the modern Olympics in 1896, officials held a marathon to commemorate Pheidippides’ run.  The distance was 24.85 miles (40 kilometers), and Spiridon Louis, who was also Greek, won it in just under three hours (2:58:50 to be precise).

The modern distance of 26.2 arrived in 1908 when the Olympics were held in London.  The Brits wanted to start the race at Windsor Castle and end it at the stadium 26 miles away.  They then added .2 miles so that the race could finish right in front of the royal family.  After many international disputes, the official distance of the marathon was changed from 24.85 to 26.2 miles.

When the day comes where you’re suffering through the last 1.35 miles of your marathon, you can thank the British royal family for your agony (and later, pride)!!


2 responses to “‘I can do 26.2!’

  1. God save the Queen!

  2. Amy,

    I’m familiar with the origin of the marathon distance.
    This was something that I noticed from reading through the book of 1 Kings. The Prophet Elijah from the Old Testament is known as the first ultra marathon runner! In First Kings 18 there is the account of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal and after there defeat in 1 Kings 19 the evil Queen Jezebel sends her messenger that she is going essentially kill him(Elijah) for defeating her prophets so in fear he “runs for his life” from Mt. Carmel to Beesheba which is approx. 90 miles in a days time.

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